After winning the Columbus Crew’s second MLS Cup trophy on Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium with a 3-0 win against the Seattle Sounders, all players on the Black & Gold roster are now enjoying some well-deserved offseason rest. Actually, all but one. Winger Luis Diaz, who provided the assist for Lucas Zelarayan’s second goal against the Sounders on Saturday, took only a couple of days off before he joined the Costa Rican Under-23 National Team in a training camp in his home country.
The 22-year-old winger was an important piece in the Crew’s championship-winning campaign, registering five assists (including two in the MLS Cup playoffs) in 21 matches. His game improved considerably toward the end of the season when he regained a starting spot in head coach Caleb Porter’s team.
“It was a different and difficult year and I’m grateful I was able to end it winning a trophy with my club,” he said in an interview published on the Costa Rican Federation’s website. “MLS is a very physical league and there are players of a really high level there. It was a great experience and I feel I’ve learned a lot from my teammates and even from our opponents. I’m looking forward to using that experience here with the national and help my teammates so everything plays out in the best possible way for us.”
Diaz, who is frequently called up to his country’s senior national team, is arguably the most recognized name in the squad that has two other MLS players in Portland Timbers’ midfielder Marvin Loría and Nashville SC’s winger Randall Leal.
This training camp was designed to get the group an opportunity to start preparing for next year’s Olympic Qualifier, the dates of which are yet to be determined.
“We’re doing a good job on our preparation,” Diaz said of the camp. “There are still things we need to work on, but we’ll have plenty of time to do it and will continue giving our best every day. We are still missing some important players, but there’s a good quality in this group. The training sessions have been really competitive and that’s what makes players get better.”
When the training camp concludes, Diaz will remain in Costa Rica and prepare for what could be the biggest season of his career. Aside from helping the Crew defend the MLS Cup title and performing well on its return to the CONCACAF Champions League, the winger could also appear in the Olympics with his national team.
“I’m really motivated to be here and when we’re done I’ll be able to take some time to rest and recharge for the next season,” Diaz said. “Next year will bring us some really good opportunities. The main goal is to help to qualify the national team for the Olympics and with the Crew, we’ll have the CONCACAF Champions League, which is also very important. It’s going to be a big year.”